School funding campaign 'is not over', says defiant union leader

The union-led school funding campaign credited with bringing the issue to the forefront of last year’s general election campaign is not over, Kevin Courtney said today.

During a barnstorming speech to the National Union of Teachers annual conference in Brighton this afternoon, the National Education Union joint general secretary defied critics of school cuts campaign, and defended his union’s spending in the run-up to the election last June.

Last month, figures published by the Electoral Commission revealed the NUT spent £326,000 on campaigning in last year’s poll. The organisation was the only trade union to spend more than £250,000, and even outspent some political parties.

Courtney told delegates that they should have “no doubt” their campaign – and the popular union-run School Cuts website – was the “fundamental reason” that an additional £1.3 billion in school funding was pledged by the government last year.

“Some politicians have cried foul. Some don’t like headteachers speaking out. Some of them don’t like us speaking out. Some of them have objected to the NUT spending £300,000 during the election. They’ve objected to the fact we spent more than UKIP.

“Well I say this. We make no apology. We will do it again. And we now have hundreds of thousands more parental supporters.”

Courtney said politicians of all parties should “beware”, adding: “Parents will not forgive these education cuts.”

“We spent a third of a million pounds and, with that money and your efforts, we won £1,300 million pounds for schools. Nothing like enough. But every pound of it won by your efforts. Every pound means fewer teacher jobs lost, fewer TAs’ jobs removed, it means class sizes held just that bit lower, it means a subject not lost.”

Despite last year’s concession on funding, Courtney vowed to fight on.

“Our funding campaign is not over, not by a long chalk,” he said.

“There are still huge cuts facing our schools. Schools in disadvantaged areas are losing the most. It’s not just our schools. Nurseries are being cut, sixth form colleges are being cut – and our special education and disability high needs budgets are being cut.”

Courtney urged members to order leaflets, posters and banners ahead of May’s local elections, and said he wanted to see candidates being “quizzed about their attitude to funding this generation’s education properly”.